Alabama River rises after weekend rain

Published 6:26 pm Monday, March 16, 2009

Weekend rain created a swift current along the swollen Alabama River. Rainfall totaling 3.74 inches fell on Selma beginning Saturday morning and ending Monday morning.

At 3 p.m. Monday the river level was 28.02 feet. The National Weather Service in Birmingham expects the river to crest at 30.1 feet, which is one-tenth of a foot above the action stage, or caution stage right before flood stage, of 30 feet and about 15 feet lower than the flood stage of 45 feet.

“We’re not going to get anywhere near that,” NWS meteorologist Mark Sirmon said. “We’re expecting it to continue to rise through about 1 a.m. on March 18 and start to fall shortly after that,”

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The weather forecast has no rain in it until a 10 percent chance on Thursday.

Rhonda Abbott, deputy director of the Dallas County Emergency Management Agency, said the river has been higher this year than it is now.

“We haven’t had any problems,” Abbott said.

Tom Lang, work unit manager for the Alabama Forestry Commission’s Dallas County office, owns a lot along the Alabama River on County Road 946. Lang has a stationary dock, or pier, anchored into the riverbank on his property. He said recent summer droughts hardened the soil and caused cracks around the anchor points. When the water level rose, the soil softened caused the bank to collapse.

“I ended up with about four pickup loads of dirt on my dock,” Lang said. “It took me a while to shovel it off of there.”

Lang said some of his neighbors have floating docks along the river, which also are in danger when the river rises. He said debris floating downriver could get caught against the docks, causing damage or pulling the docks loose.

“That debris will come down the river and just jam against those floating docks,” Lang said. “It’ll put a lot of stress. It’s a lot of weight.”

Lang said he heard a story last week about a pontoon boat that was jarred loose from its dock when the river was high. He had a story of his own, too.

“I saw somebody’s floating dock going down the river at 6:30 in the morning, looking out my window,” Lang said. “High water causes problems for people that live on the river.”

According to the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, floods cost the U.S. more than $4 billion annually and are responsible for approximately 150 deaths. Abbott said as a precaution, cattle and heavy equipment in low-lying areas should be moved when the river reaches the action stage.

“We’re going to be okay,” Abbot said. “When you get to the action stage that’s just when you really want to take note and really watch it.”